Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray – Review

Since the Disney acquisition of the Star Wars franchise, one author has repeatedly shined as one of the best of those sharing new adventures through the written word.  That author is Claudia Gray.  Ms. Gray’s Lost Stars, an original trilogy spanning story about two lovers who find themselves on opposite sides of the Galactic Civil War was a stand out hit that we absolutely loved.  For her next entry, Ms. Gray visited the era of the sequel trilogy with Bloodline, a story about Leia’s final days in the New Republic Senate and what lead her to establish the Resistance.  Again, like Lost Stars, Bloodline is one of the best reads available to anyone hungry for more Star Wars.  When it was announced that Ms. Gray would write Leia one more time, albeit as a teenager prior to A New Hope, it was a reason to celebrate.

Leia: Princess of Alderaan was released in September, 2017, just a couple months prior to the release of The Last Jedi, with the banner “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” The setting for Leia is several years before the Alderaanian princess glared defiantly into the black mask of Darth Vader, as she is bridging the moment from young teen to earnest young adult preparing for the responsibilities of an heir to her mother, Queen Breha. Woven into the background, and at times, foreground, is the fascinating rise of Alderaan’s role in the fomenting of the rebellion against the Galactic Empire.  Through the course of the story, we meet peers of the young princess, such as Amilyn Holdo, a character that intentionally or not channels Luna Lovegood of the Harry Potter-verse, and whom we will meet in the much more grounded position of vice-admiral in The Last Jedi, as well as Kier Domandi, who comes to serve as Leia’s first love (this is technically a YA novel and romance is a common feature – something Ms. Gray does extremely well).

There are three major elements of Leia, one part being her participation in Pathfinder training with a group of her peers, a second part being Leia’s efforts to begin acting in a greater capacity as Alderaanian royalty by operating mercy missions around the galaxy, and finally, attempting to uncover the reason her loving parents, Breha and Bail, had suddenly forsaken her for balls and festivities with other notable personages from around the Empire.  It’s this final part which affects the overall enjoyment of Leia, because the truth of the matter is that her parents, while visibly partying with little care for anything else, are actually using such activities to conceal their work as part of the growing rebellion against the Emperor.  Leia’s cluelessness for this plays off a little immature for someone her age, capable of so many other things in the novel, and while she does figure this out, the character feels artificially dumbed down until this discovery.  The Leia we know is clever, smart, and capable of thinking quickly on her feet, and but for this part of the story, this is the Leia we generally get to enjoy, at least in a formative stage.

Claudia Gray does weave these parts together as the story progresses, raising the stakes as Leia becomes more confident in her ability to be a princess of Alderaan, while confronting the serious dangers poised by the Galactic Empire, particularly, by a certain Grand Moff.  On a smaller scale, outside of introducing Holdo and providing that character with a wonderful backstory, Leia also introduces the sodium encrusted planet Crait from The Last Jedi, in a substantial way that helps make it feel genuinely like part of a journey to that film.  Leia, while not reaching the pinnacle of fun and enjoyment of Gray’s other YA installment, Lost Stars, is still immensely enjoyable to read; particularly for those who want more Leia Organa in their lives, as well her parents, Breha and Bail Organa.  Both characters receive significant coverage, especially Queen Breha, long one of the most fascinating characters in the Star Wars franchise who has been generally left to the narrative sidelines. Don’t let this quick and easy adventure pass you by.

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